St. Paul and the Broken Bones *from the album Young Sick Camellia available on Records Records)
Young Sick Camellia is mood music. The latest from the Alabama based soul and R & B outfit St. Paul & The Broken Bones is a thirteen-song exploration of slow to mid-tempo grooves; at their essence its all pure gospel and funk ripe for festival stage. Some cuts even fall into the realm of baby-making music. St. Paul & The Broken Bones lives somewhere in the fringe neighborhood of funk and soul that put Motown on the map, while also being a major player of 21st Century bands driving a new funk-dance music scene. Young Sick Camellia delivers an obvious nod to the influential artists that came before, bringing with it the forgotten era of discos more memorable traits; a groove that will fill a dance-floor leaving disco cheesiness in the rear-view.
Groove is everywhere. “GotItBad,” “Apollo,” and “LivWithOutU” feature punchy horns, hand-claps and those splashy bass lines that put this album into the club category. Purists may want the band to hit it harder, although hitting it harder likely would drive people out the door. As is, it’s a fun album, loaded with the riffs and slight psychedelia that nod to underground 70’s funk, partnered with the festival dance vibes you get out of a similar act like Shinyribs provides the soundtrack to your dance-party as much as it’s a gateway to American R & B history. Throwback is okay, especially if you let Paul Janeway guide you to the titles of up-beat American funk and gospel that have shaped the music he and his band are making today.
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Worry Dolls (from the album Go Get Gone available on )
Two guitars held by two redheads came met at an open mic night where the two solo singer/songwriters, Zoe Nicol and Rosie Jones, began steps towards forming Worry Dolls. The meeting happened when the pair were eighteen years old and still based in Liverpool, England. Worry Dolls moved to London to chase their career, couch surfing for a year until their brand of Folk Country built a following. The duo quit their day gigs and flew to Nashville, Tennessee to record their latest (debut) album, Go Get Gone.
Worry Dolls entered an East Nashville studio with producer Neilson Hubbard who put a strong focus on the vocal harmonies. The music for Go Get Gone moves the mood in the stories as somber (“She Don’t Live Here Anymore”), tough-love comfort (“Light Oh Light”), pensive (“Someday Soon”, and assertive (“Tidal Wave”). Worry Dolls have the vocal prowess of true believers, Go Get Gone firmly placing the band in the forefront of Folk, Country, Rock’n’Roll hybrid sounds. Worry Dolls toss out a “Bless Your Heart” kiss-off as they travel “Endless Road” with a restless wander in the rough-hewn rhythm, stamping “Passport” with spit and snarl while goodbye hops aboard a country and western rail-click beat with “Train’s Leaving”.
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Taivi (from the album Rising Tide available on )
Directly addressing tumultuous times, Taivi sings support on the title track to her recent release, Rising Tide. Gentle strums and warm notes embrace inspiring words, Taivi advising to stay true to yourself as the journey towards the light of a better day is detailed on “Rising Tide”. Stirring emotions with her words, Taivi reaches into hearts and minds, joyfully heading down the Hudson river to the sound of a banjo in “The Clearwater”, feeling winter chill, her mind set ion one goal with “Get on Home”, matches a bass thump to a heartbeat for “When I’m with You”, and watches the night sky in “Red Moon Rise. Her vocal touches each tale with grace and poise, backing the stories with Folk music.
The mood for Rising Tide was defined by the world outside, Taivi deciding that ‘we are living in challenging times but this can draw people to what really matters, and lead to a new momentum and energy. The notion of a rising tide captures this for me, movement that can be imperceptible on the surface, but keeps raising us up’. Wandering on the path, Taivi tempts in “Parry Sound’, lets pumping blood find the groove in “Rock My Heart”, and provides a powerful beat, using Huck Finn as a model for freedom in “Keep on Moving”. Armed with guitar, mandolin, and piano, Taivi used different environments around the globe, recording Rising Tide in her Toronto homebase utilizing other Canadian spots in Guelph and Nova Scotia as well as Nashville, Tennessee and Frankfurt, Germany. Tenderness flicks the switch as Taivi beckons in “Turn My Light On” while she spins striking up the band with love as Rising Tide requests “One More Dance”.
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Murder by Death (from the album The Other Shore on Bloodshot Records)
The biggest takeaway from any Murder By Death album is Adam Turla’s voice. It’s heavy and aggressive yet a smoot, robust croon that gets laid out in front of you with consistently like someone rolls out a lush carpet right at your feet; its ever-present boom wrapping around you. The Indiana indie-rock bands 8th full-length release, The Other Shore, finds the band standing firmly where they’ve always been… a place defying classification or even similarities with other bands/ Murder by Death comfortably hold ground within the indie-rock canon.
Adam Turla’s lyrics have always chased grief amongst melodies and instrumentation from slight and minimal to compositionally large and sweeping, the latter due in part to the chunky drive of Sarah Balliets rock and roll cello. Turla’s voice is a perfect vehicle to deliver the grief, angst and self-reflection he writes into his characters. The Other Shore is dominated by stories of leaving and escape that ultimately are a tale of one couple’s woes as they try to escape from what seems to be everywhere.
‘Maybe you’re right, I’m no good. I got a heart made of glass, and a head made of wood. Let me make it clear, when I’m gone, I’m gone. The nights just the night and there’s no coming dawn’. Murder by Death use the line as a great way to open a The Other Shore. “Alas” slowly builds, more instruments come added as the emotional tempo picks up like an argument you know you’ll lose. That’s the general theme of the The Other Shore; the songs kicking off slowly before culminating in a dramatic fashion. That seems to be the Murder by Death way, as they continue to defy labels of alt country or gothic folk and continue to just make good rock records. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Aaron Lee Tasjan (from the album Karma for Cheap available on New West Records)
Many artists can sell their music on a sound while a small group of musicians can train listeners to expect the unexpected. On his third album release, Karma for Cheap, Aaron Lee Tasjan delivers ever-changing soundscapes; percussive breezes blowing “Strange Shadows” as dark rhythms flash with thick guitar riffs while he touches the late-night Tiny Tim cabaret Folk of “Dream Dreamer” with swaths of Country. The songs of Karma for Cheap reflect a treasure chest of musical memories from his past that Aaron Lee Tasjan channels as a muse, viewing Power Pop through a lens of bending guitar leads, swooping and diving around the frothy beat of “The Truth is So Hard to Believe”
Taking Cosmic American music for a tour around a universe of possibilities when Aaron Lee Tasjan smears T-Rex trashy glam Blues over the kaleidoscopic-bright revolving rhythms of late 60’s Beatles in “End of the Day”. The album opens asking “If Not Now When”, namedropping the Karma for Cheap album title as Aaron Lee Tasjan slides into an E.L.O.-born nonchalant strut. Karma for Cheap trips over the downtown rock’n’roll grit beat for “Crawling at Your Feet”, echoes Roy Wood in the tale of “Songbird” and promises “The Rest is Yet to Come” on an acid-dosed Memphis groove. “Heart Slows Down” stretches guitar sonics over its hard-won beat as Aaron Lee Tasjan preaches the daily news, promising better days on the guitar jangle of “Set You Free”.
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Allie Chipkin (from the album Cascades available as a self-release)
If challenges were clothing, “Reckless (Lady Be)” would be a long white glove tastefully tossed as a gauntlet being thrown down. The track is from the recent Allie Chipkin release, Cascades. Allie Chipkin dares women to push against the borders of tradition in her words in “Reckless (Lady Be)”, backing the encouragement with dramatic piano trills that morph into a march to a freedom of dreams realized. Cascades quiets for the confessions of “Lovesick” and puts a metronome beat under the steps of “Conductor”. Originally from Poughkeepsie, New York, Allie Chipkin went west to set up a homebase in Boulder, Colorado. She opens Cascades with a tune tribute to a city further north as Allie Chipkin dances among the rhythmic twists of “Seattle”.
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Big Bad Rooster (from the album Rolling in the Bramble available on Coke N Waffles Records)
Southern California embraces DIY attitudes in the music of string band Big Bad Rooster. Punk rock beats and sentiments are as much as part of the four-piece as guitar (Michael Solan), fiddle (Camilo Barahona), banjo (Gaspar Barahona), and upright bass (Tristan Cole-Falek). The title track barrels across Rolling in the Bramble, as the quartet double-time Dixieland strums for the good times in “Heart & Soul” while band namedropper “Big Bad Rooster” opens the album on hoots and bass thumps for its falsetto modern-day fairy tale. Rolling in the Bramble wraps strong-willed banjo notes around the confessional inspiration of “Turn It Around” and bids goodbye in the call/response harmonies of “Fare Thee Well” as Big Bad Rooster post some Blues into the Bluegrass of “Mailman” and feel the weight of the life and love balanced on “One Drop”.
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Austin Lucas (from the album Immortal Americans available on Cornelius Chapel Records)
Austin Lucas is keeping good company. For Immortal Americans, the singer/songwriter teamed with Centro-matic’s Will Johnson on production duties and Steve Albini in the engineering and mixing role. Immortal Americans is the result; a straight-ahead narrative of small-town life and stories that champion the outsider. Austin Lucas is a modern folkie with musical roots in skater punk rock punk-shows, owing as much to Black Flag as he does to John Prine. He is a romantic storyteller, keen on nostalgia and hellbent on details, capable of putting you right into the narrative beat of a Saturday night in town, his characters daring locals wanting to escape.
The title track is dark, the pedal steel used like a tool for ambience and delivered as a eulogy, the immortal American a friend who has passed, his time remembered in the lines ‘we were never fans of stock car races. Though mesmerized by the roaring of those cars; out in the dark the sound echoes off our skin as we took to rooftop with those engines on the wind’. A hearty contribution heard on numerous cuts comes from vocalist Chloe Manor. Her voice is faint and delicate yet fitting behind the vocals of Austin Lucas, harmonizing like she was born to be there. Austin Lucas nods to the county of his up-bringing on “Monroe County Nights”, the story stuck in a forever reality yet made hopeful and beautiful via Chloe Manor’s hushed vocals. Immortal Americans is an album of dark beauty; the working-class vibe and at times deadpan delivery is a welcome addition. Austin Lucas comfortably fits into a growing list of rough around the edges songwriters backing their stories with quiet melody as they deliver a beautiful dose of reality. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar (from the album Run to Me available on )
Rhythm and Blues is the heartbeat that drives Run to Me, the latest release from Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar. The Canadian trio that frontwoman Samantha Martin feels are co-vocalists sway and swoon as they remember the loneliness of lost love (“Chasing Dream”), chop up the beat with Vintage Soul (“Over You”), rattle out some funk (“All Night Long”), slowly roll rhythms (“Wanna Be Your Lover”), and stab sad stories with sharp chord snaps (“Only So Much”). The power vocal combination of Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar kicks the album into gear on “You’re the Love”, the track namechecking the album title in its Run to Me chorus come-on. A rhythm-infected bounce strides out on the right step with “This Night is Mine” while Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar pound out the beat to march into “Good Trouble” and wonder on the ways of love in “Will We Ever Learn”.
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The Brothers Comatose (from the album Ink, Dust & Luck available on Antifragile Music)
Harmonizing on one wish, The Brothers Comatose stare out the tour van windshield looking to see the sun and surf as they feel the love of their native California and the hearts waiting there calling in “Get Me Home”. The song is what a touring band gets as a parting gift from a life lived on the road. Ink, Dust & Luck chugs with road rhythms as The Brothers Comatose snatch stories from daily life with “As the Crow Flies”, put a Bluegrass stomp underneath “Don’t Make Me Get Up and Go” as the band resist rising, and rattle strings for the personal resume of “These Ways”.
Producer John Vanderslice recorded Ink, Dust & Luck direct to two-inch analog tape, The Brother Comatose guitarist/lead vocalist Ben Morrison recalling that ‘for the first time, every single band member contributed songs to the album. We took the old school, just straight to tape approach, and I think the raw energy really shines through. Vanderslice is a madman in the studio, we couldn’t have done this recording without his genius intuition supporting us all the way through’. Ink, Dust & Luck tenderly picks out love notes for the high desert in “Joshua Tree”, tumbles on a Folksy sway through “Cedarwood Pines”, and measures “Love by Degrees” on sharp chord strums while The Brothers Comatose duet with Nicki Bluhm, each taking a side in “Sugar Please”.
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